Cats remind Calipari of former team

Kentucky made so many all-too familiar mistakes in its 87-85 overtime loss Tuesday night at Arkansas, one might assume John Calipari is starting to wonder if his young Wildcats will ever turn the proverbial corner on a season that has yet to meet lofty expectations. Think again.

Kentucky made so many all-too familiar mistakes in its 87-85 overtime loss Tuesday night at Arkansas, one might assume John Calipari is starting to wonder if his young Wildcats will ever turn the proverbial corner on a season that has yet to meet lofty expectations.

Think again.

The UK boss saw signs, even in defeat, that reminded him of one of his other Final Four teams.

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"I'm telling you, I'm looking at this like (three) years ago, we lost a bunch of close games, and all the sudden we got it together at the end and went and did our thing at the end of the year," Calipari said Wednesday during his weekly radio show.

He was referring to the 2010-11 season, which saw the Wildcats lose eight games by Feb. 23 and post a 5-5 mark in their first 10 SEC games. But that team won five of its last six in league play, rolled to the SEC Tournament championship, and took a 10-game winning streak into the Final Four before falling 56-55 to UConn in the national semifinals.

A team that previously couldn't get out of its own way in close losses – Sound familiar? – was suddenly knocking off six ranked opponents, including No. 1 Ohio State and No. 7 North Carolina in two of the most memorable NCAA Tournament games in recent program history.

"I'm looking at this thing right now," Calipari continued, "and there's two or three teams that are a little bit better than everybody else. That's it. Everybody else, you're in the bucket. Here we are."

What makes Calipari confident that Kentucky (12-4, 2-1 SEC) get itself out of the bucket and back in the hunt like the Brandon Knight/Josh Harrellson/DeAndre Liggins-led team from 2010-11?

"What I loved is we fought and we didn't stop playing and we played with courage down the stretch and we made plays that gave ourselves a chance to win," he said. "… It was the first step that I've seen us fight, and it's funny because, if we had won in double-overtime, any issues, we wouldn't be thinking about. When you lose like we lost – almost an airball, rebound dunk at the buzzer where two guys just stopped playing, and it wasn't just James (Young), it was Andrew (Harrison) too – now all the sudden, it's the issues.

"We need to look at this again in a different light, which is we fought like crazy, and I'm proud of what we did."

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Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

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